Four Years Ago Today

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

TW: Talk of Suicide including method and post death graphic stuff.

Four years ago today.

Four years.

My new normal started 4 years ago today.

I still replay the movies in my head. I remember waking up earlier than her.

I remember going in to wake her up so that I could bring her something back for breakfast.

I remember the way her skin felt, that eerie cold that didn’t feel quite right. I knew the second I touched her that she was gone.

I remember the rigidness of her limbs.

I just knew.

I remembered hearing the rustling of her pills the night before. I thought she was just taking her night time meds. The bag that held her medications was empty. She took every last one of them.

I remember sending a message to my closest friend and neighbor, asking her to get Draven out of the house while I was on the phone with 911. I didn’t want him waking up to the chaos. I wanted him safe from the new reality.

I remember making phone calls that changed lives forever.

I remember sitting in my desk chair lost, numb, unsure of how to process the way my life was changing.

I remember my mother sitting here, strangely she was up from Florida, strangely she was going to take me to breakfast that morning, strangely she came into the house as the first wave of paramedics did.

I was so thankful she was here.

I remember taking a drive, to Burger King, to get us out of the house as the coroner took Parker’s body out.

I remember ordering food that went uneaten.

I remember being thankful that Draven already had therapy that day, and that I was able to get in for my own appointment.

I remember crying more tears then I ever thought possible. The feeling of my eyes being so raw from wiping them.

I remember.

Four years.

Four years ago today.

I Lived

This is a Really Real Widow post.

With some mental health thrown in, because they are completely entwined.

This time of year is incredibly hard.

Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of a major accident that Kidlet and Parker were in. The pictures show up every year, reminding me of the horror of that day. Deep open wounds and the two people I loved most in the world strapped to stretchers. The screams I heard coming from my son in the ambulance that day are sounds I will never forget.

Sounds I never want to forget for the same reason I let the pictures show up in memories every year.

We survived that shit. Parker took a motorcycle to the head and Kidlet caught it, and they lived.

The reminders of Parker’s ankle surgery a few years back show up this time every year, too. It’s the beginning of the countdown to the day she died. That surgery and the restrictions after it were the final straw that broke her. Her death date is now less than 2 weeks away.

The last video I took just went through my memories the other day. The last photos will be any day now. The post where I tell everyone she died will be a few days after that.

I could delete them, block them from my Timehop memories. But I don’t.

We survived that shit. Kidlet and I lost one of the most important people in our worlds, and we lived.

I recently saw my first firefly of the year. The first was in Florida and I’ve seen one since coming home as well. It’s another reminder that it’s this time of year. A bittersweet thing as she was my firefly, it’s nice to have that reminder of her, but also, it means that day is coming.

Each year this time passes with a different set of feelings. The first year was a sense of urgency, a sense of needing to get to that one year anniversary so that it can just be over and done with. The lead up is always worse than the actual day.

Each year the pain has lessened. In earlier years I’ve felt the need to do something to remember her. A trip to the beach, normally. I’m not sure that’s so necessary anymore.

This year the reminders are there, but the feelings are different, yet again.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s different, why does it feel so different.

And then it came to me. It feels less traumatizing this year. That’s the difference.

In the past it was a punch to the gut with each picture or facebook post, or even a just a general look at the calendar to see the date. This year it just is. It’s a calm, gentle reminder that it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Part of what got me to this point.

I’m super down on myself right now because I feel like I’ve undone years worth of work. Years of work that were so important as I tried to live in ways that Parker couldn’t anymore. I had to get better, I had to save myself, or losing her was in vain.

But this is part of my story as well. And that’s okay.

This is okay.

I’ll survive this shit. Life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball, and I lived.

I lived.

Still a Widow

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

I wonder how she’d be handling this?

We didn’t leave the house for weeks at a time when we were at our worst, but I still wonder how Parker would have reacted to a pandemic and social distancing?

How would she have reacted when we lived in florida and we were close to her friends? Would that have made a difference? We were pretty isolated up here anyway, we didn’t really spend time with anyone.

How would she have calmed my fears? What jokes would she have made? Would she have broken down?

She was always the stronger one from the outside looking in.

What foods would she want, knowing we needed to shop as little as possible? Which comfort meals would she want me to cook?

What kind of order would she need around the house?

We were used to being in the same space all of the time. That was our normal. Neither of us could work most of the time, neither of us had lives outside of our home. We were inseparable to a fault. That would have come in handy right now.

I also wonder how horrible this would have been if we lived in the homeless shelter while this was happening?

What precautions are they putting in place?

How scary is it there right now, knowing that this could infect the entire shelter in a matter of days? So many vulnerable people in such a small space.

I’m so thankful my life is where it’s at right now. I’m glad I live in my own space. I’m glad I can buy groceries. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about keeping the lights on.

I’m thankful she’s missing this particular part of life. I’m glad she doesn’t have to struggle through this. She doesn’t have to be afraid that her mom will get sick, or her aunts. She doesn’t have to worry about losing a friend or loved one.

Widowhood is in every facet of my life. It’s always there, quietly whispering. It’s here too. It’s in the middle of a worldwide crisis. It’s in the middle of social distancing. It’s in the middle of a pandemic.

It’s always with me, and it makes me wonder.

How Far I’ve Really Come

This starts as a Really Real Mental Health Post.

And ends as a Really Real Widow Post.

I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

Each day that I work, I can’t believe I’m really doing this. I can’t believe I actually earned this money. I can’t believe how much earning this money really means. I can’t explain how good it feels.

Each problem I solve, each new task I conquer, and each fear I overcome, I’m amazed that this is who I am now. That this is what I am accomplishing.

I remember when I realized I couldn’t work anymore.  I remember the shit storm that lead up to that moment. I remember the heartbreak that came along with applying for disability.

I remember.

At the worst of this, I couldn’t leave my house. I couldn’t be left alone.

I remember.

And the truth is, I will probably end up back in the hospital some day. I will probably do another round or three of the partial hospital program. I will have countless more hours of therapy.

But I’ve come so so far.

So far.

I can see myself going further. I can see myself working full time. I can see myself becoming more comfortable in my own skin. I can see myself getting better at ignoring the constant anxiety running through my head.

It’s a big deal that I can see a future with further recovery.

It’s a big deal that I’m seeing a future without disability.

Without being disabled.

And there’s another side to this.

I remember watching Parker push through her own struggles to go to work and support the three of us while she was barely making it emotionally and physically.

I remember.

I love my life and I know everything that has happened has brought me to where I am now.

But still, I wonder.

If I could have worked before. If I could have shared some of the load. If I could have helped more. If I could have taken some of the weight off of her shoulders.

Would she still be alive?

If we had the money to pay the bills. If we had the money to keep the lights on. If we had the money to avoid the eviction notices. If we had the money to keep food in the fridge.

Would she still be alive?

I’ve come so far, and I’m doing so well. And I know her death is a big part of what pushed me towards my recovery. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am if things hadn’t happened exactly as they have.

Every success, every bit of growth, with every push towards recovery, is served with a small side dish of sadness.

But I can’t really believe how far I’ve come.

And I can’t wait to see how far I go.

This year, this decade.

This is a Really Real “Life in Review” Post.

It’s the end of a year.

I figured, just like so many people do, I’d reflect on the past year of my life.  Think about my accomplishments and what I’d like to take with me into next year.

This year I started giving myself permission to take up space.  Physically, verbally, emotionally. I realized that I was allowed the space that I need. Some of the time I was able to hold the mindset that everyone who thinks otherwise can fuck off. I want to get better at that mindset next year and stop trying to shrink myself to suit others.

This year I survived one of my more intense series of suicidal thoughts. I got myself help. I saw that I have a huge community of people who support me, both virtually and locally. I want to be better connected with that community.

I learned that even though I feel like I’m outside of a group, it doesn’t mean I actually am.

I found joy in sending snail mail. Making well over 100 cards in the past 3 months has been so wonderful, and even better was knowing that it put a smile on someone’s face. I want to keep going, and maybe start selling my work.

I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is that it’s okay for things to be stable. It’s not the calm before the storm, it’s just the calm, and life can really be this way without worrying about what comes next. I want to carry comfort with stability going forward.

I learned to live in the moment. That fully accepting what is happening is the first step to finding solutions. Fighting against a problem only takes energy away from solving it. I learned that not being okay, is perfectly okay. That as long as you don’t make a problem worse, you’re doing the right things – you can always build from there.  I learned that it’s okay to ask for what I need, that it doesn’t always mean fighting.

It’s the end of a year.  One of the better years of my life.

It’s the end of a decade.

It’s hard to wrap up the past decade because there’s a giant split down the middle.  The before and the after.

In the before, there was a lot of love, and a lot of trauma, and a lot of resilience, and a lot of struggle.

In the after there’s a lot of growth, a lot of falling (metaphorically and physically), a lot of healing, and a lot of pain.

It’s the end of a decade. The hardest in my life.

I wrote a big long thing trying to list out the good and the bad of the last decade, but honestly, that’s not all that helpful.  The past decade (and the ones before that) got me to where I am now, and now is what matters.

Now is where I want to spend my time.

Wayback machine.

This is a Really Real Trauma Post.

Lots of things have been taking me back lately.

A friend who recently lost her husband. Someone else who is facing homelessness and looking at their options. Spotify giving me a list of music from the last 10 years. Even raising a kitten takes me back to a time in my life before.

My life is split into before and after in so many ways.  Not only did Parker die on that day in 2016, but the person I was died at the same time. It seems like my life has done a radical 180 since she died.  No more traumas, no major crisis (except the internal, mental health kind), no more catastrophes.

It seems unfair that she missed this. But I’m not sure this would have happened if she hadn’t died. And it’s not like I can change any of it anyway.

But things have been taking me back.

I’ve been reliving the emotions, with some distance put between me and the pain. I can view yesterdays tragedies with today’s knowledge. At times I feel like I’m stuck in my history again, except I know I’ll make it out alive.

I smell smoke and feel like I’m running out of a house on fire.

A sleeping pet or person doesn’t react to a sound and I feel like I’m going to face death again.

I pay a bill late and remember the stress of shut off notices month after month, struggling to stay one step ahead of a dark house.

Earlier this month I went to a Christmas Party thrown by Healthcare for the Homeless. It was held in the same building as the homeless shelter. Lots of the residents attended. It was the same shelter I spent months in, however they’re in a new building now (which made it a bit easier).

I remember being there. I remember being that person.

So many things that are reminding me of where I’ve been.

What I’ve survived.

What I’ve overcome.

But feeling that fear again, deep into my bones, is one of the harder things about trauma. I never get to fully escape it I never get to lock it up and put it away.

It’s as much a part of me as widowhood is.

Christmas Eve

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

It’s now Christmas Eve.

Being a few years out from the year of firsts makes things easier, but they still aren’t easy.

I’m living a life I was never meant to have. I’m celebrating holidays I was never meant to celebrate without her. I’m making new traditions that don’t include her.

But her memory is still here, in everything I do.

Holidays, special events, things that are out of the ordinary, will bring her memory into full focus.

I miss her.

When I wake up in the morning, I’ll make a turkey, something I did almost every year, no matter how broke we were. I’ll make the sweet potato souffle that I learned from her mom, one of her favorite things to have each year . . and it became one of my favorites too.

This time of year is hard for me anyway, and then adding the layer of grief, just makes it a little harder.

Grief does that.

What would she have wanted for Christmas this year? Would I have had the money to get it for her?

I can’t remember what I got her the last year she was alive.

I can’t remember what we did for Christmas that year.

So many little memories that just keep fading.

The fear doesn’t fade though.

I made a noise in the bedroom this morning and Wonder Woman didn’t stir. It scared me. I stood perfectly still and made sure I could still see the rise and fall of her chest.

I’m living a life I never thought I would live.

I’m afraid of going through that again.

I’m happy with this life. Even with the widowhood that’s woven through the fabric of everything I do, I’m happy with the life I’m living.

But I miss her.

And I wonder.

What if?

Who would she be?

Who would I be?

I don’t have some grand point to this post, no final point that I was leading up to.

I just miss her.

Another holiday in my new normal.  No matter how great this new normal is, there will always be that Parker shaped hole that nothing will ever fill.

But, I’ll keep living life around it.

Grief gets easier.

This is a Really Real Widow post.

One benefit to writing these and posting them on Facebook is that as the memories come up I can see how far I’ve come.  I can remember the past and see where I am compared to then.  I can see what lessons I didn’t learn in the moment.

I remember, when Parker first died, people told me it would get easier.  I couldn’t believe them. They told me I’d stop noticing the anniversaries and that eventually I’d even forget what day she died.

I couldn’t believe them.

I wasn’t ready.

It felt too raw.

It’s three and a half years later.  I no longer notice each 8th of the month, even though I haven’t forgotten what day she died.  I just had to count back to see how long it’s been, I’m no longer counting the months as they go by.

My birthday was a huge grief trigger, even last year.  I am getting older and she is not. I’m older then her and that wasn’t supposed to happen.

This year, I remembered Parker on my birthday (I remember her almost every day). I noted that I was, yet again, adding another year over her.  I had those pangs of grief.

But they were just there.  I was just the grief that’s woven into the fabric of me.

The pain didn’t define the day.

I didn’t spend part of the day in bed crying.

It is fully integrated into this new normal.

I just couldn’t believe it when people told me this early on.  I didn’t believe it would get easier.  She was so big in her life, and I expected that it would stay that way in her death.

But, most of the time, I’m comfortably widowed.  It is a part of who I am but it no longer defines my existence.

I have a friend who was very recently widowed. I would never begin to tell her what path her grief will take. Every journey is different. I will sit with her in her agony, as it is now.

I still remember those early days.

Through Facebook memories I still read about those early days.

I see my pain coming through my words.

The despair. The hope. The need to maintain connection. The realization that life as I knew it would be entirely different without her.

It does get easier.

I just read something that said grief doesn’t get smaller, we get bigger.

The Parker shaped hole in my heart is much easier to live around.  The edges have smoothed and I don’t trip over them so often. My heart is much larger, giving me room to avoid that hole.

Birthdays can be about me.

Birthdays can be about life.

Birthdays can be about the present.

About the moment I am living in.

The life I am living.

Grief gets easier.

But I will always miss her.

It really is this good.

This is a Really Real Relationship post.

I’m all about radical vulnerability. Being wide open, and raw, and honest.

And I realized that while I’m showing all of the sides of mental illness and widowhood, it feels like I’m offering a Facebook version of my relationship.

And that’s not who I am.

It’s not what I’ve ever meant to do.

And honestly, I want people to know that things CAN be good, even with shitty mental health and a shitty traumatic past, and even with a relationship that’s just, almost, perfect.  I deserve good things, and things don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Wonder Woman and I have a really great relationship.

Over two years in and we haven’t had a single fight. We haven’t raised our voices at each other or said harsh words to each other even once. We apologize almost immediately if anything has even seemed passive aggressive. We even apologize if we’re grumpy or in a bad mood.

We really are sickeningly sweet.

But.

We have hard talks about hard things. We have some areas of our lives and our relationship that are really hard to work through. We are polar opposites in a few areas.

We are gentle with each other about those areas. We are respectful. We are understanding.

And, we get help with navigating those areas from a couples therapist, because the view from the outside is much clearer than the view from within.

It helps, and we always come out of our sessions with ideas about how to move forward, together.

I think there’s this view that couples therapy is for couples that are falling apart.

That it’s a last resort.

It was one of the first things we went for when we realized we were hitting road blocks in some areas of communication.

Don’t get me wrong. We have GREAT communication. But some areas are just HARD when we are so different. Different histories, different traumas, different preferences.

Different ways of communicating.

So I’m writing this post for two reasons.  One, is because I realized I was offering this “facebook reality” of my relationship, and I just don’t like that. And two, is to help with normalizing couples therapy, because really, what’s wrong with getting an unbiased outside perspective?

Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.